Thursday, March 27, 2008

background and layout design

i’ve never been good at drawing backgrounds. for some reason it just never works out for me. i guess i’m more interested in drawing goofy characters. thankfully ghostbot is brilliant at both. roque whipped up some beautiful background designs that completely stand on their own as art pieces. his sense of color and space make them really engaging. in the video, it’s hard to focus on the background because of all the wonderful action happening in the foreground. but it’s definitely worth your time to watch it again with an eye bent towards the great environments.
in ghostbot’s timeline on any project, they usually jump right on backgrounds and layout just after the animatic is complete. layout involves positioning all the key elements in the frame to create an interesting and functional composition. if this composition doesn’t work, then the entire scene can fall flat. sometimes layout are done in black and white, or shades of grey, just to block out the light and dark and large and small areas.
for this video, the backgrounds had to be relatively simple. strong graphic shapes, pleasing subdued colors. they couldn’t conflict with the action, but had to enhance it. enhance the mood.
here are a few layouts from roque:


next: the art of collaboration

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

terry fator on oprah!

hello egg-finders..
my friend terry fator (last season’s winner of the hit show ’america’s got talent’) was recently on oprah. they played a great little intro video about him, and then he performed a short piece featuring three of his impersonations. you can see the segment here:

he’s an amazing guy, and absolutely deserves all the success on the planet.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

happy easter!

hello my little chocolate bunnies.
i hope you all have a wonderful easter. wear cute little pastel dresses and carry little wicker baskets around all day. i’m going to wander around looking for rabbits to dip in chocolate.

since there’s almost nothing out in the theatre world these days, i’ve been renting a bunch of movies (thanks itunes!). some good, some bad. i thought i would give you my quick reviews to save you from repeating my potential bad decisions.

the assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford: very good. slow, but good. great dialogue, shot beautifully (if not a little forcefully artsy).

gone baby gone: holy crap, this was good. ben affleck has been on the wrong side of the camera all these years. this is where he belongs. the story is pretty heavy, pretty dark stuff. but the writing is smart, the performances are great. pretty weighty stuff.

then my streak ended. the following movies should only be rented if you won the lottery and are running out of things to spend money on: war, chaos, next and death sentence. i was warned about most of these by rotten tomatoes. i was warned and i ignored them. i have since clawed out my eyes.

then a surprise: 30 days of night. i thought this would suck (ha! a pun!), but i have a thing for zombie and vampire movies. thankfully i was wrong, it was very cool. the ending cheesed me out a bit, but i forgave it. it had a great look, it was well-acted and paced.

and then there are two that i feel weird about. the nines: pretty confusing (intentionally), but well acted and sort-of well written, except its premise is so silly that i don’t think it needed to be a film. certainly not a feature length film. it’s one of those endings that pees all over the audience.

and then last night was ’martian child’, which i wanted to see when it was in theatres, but it got slammed by rotten tomatoes. so i didn’t. but my curiosity got the better of me. i didn’t hate it. but it definitely could have used a re-write. maybe? i’m not even sure if that’s what was wrong with it. i mean, john cusack is always good, so it wasn’t that. i think the dialog, while smart, was a little goofy? or something. not sure. i liked it, mostly, so i would recommend it to you, oh dear chocolate bunny.

well that’s it for rentals.

then neil and kate and i took story to see ’horton hears a who’. it rocked! i laughed out loud several times. several embarrassing times. louder than i should have. the thing is, steve carrel and jim carrey aren’t particularly funny in it. in fact, i might’ve liked it more if someone else were in those parts. but the secondary characters are so charming! and the animators looked for every opportunity to punch up a gag, or make a moment. anyway, i am looking forward to seeing it again. that’s two times seeing.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

character designs 1

it was an interesting challenge for me, and for ghostbot, to design characters that were based on real people, but completely stylized and cartoony. there were four main characters that fell into this group, as well as dozens of other characters that weren’t based on real people, but had to fit the style of the video. we did a fair amount of back-and-forthing to get the characters to work. they had to feel connected to my drawing style, but also work for ghostbot.
my character, pete, took a bit of tweaking to get right. we wanted a strong graphic design to all the characters, and i liked the sort of squiggly flow of the arms and legs. so our first step was to get rid of any harsh angles: elbows, knees, etc. then we worked on getting a simple shape for the hair, rather than a bunch of scratchy, messy lines (which is what my hair really is). it’s always a delicate balance between reworking a drawing enough to get it tight and graphic, but also remembering to retain the charm and spontaneity of the original sketch. the cats at ghostbot have perfected that balance.
here’s the final pete design:

the co-star of the piece, and the second “character” to be fleshed out, was my car. the car was meant to be a makeshift version of KITT, from knight rider. the idea was that my character, who is obsessively trying to follow his hero’s footsteps, has transformed his beat-up gremlin into a crime-fighting super-car. he achieved this by taping some red flashlights to the hood. and probably adding a blinking red readout on the dashboard. oh, and he also installed the world’s longest sun visor.
in ghostbot’s version of the animatic, the car was dark green. but in the character design phase, they thought it would make more sense if the car wasn’t painted. but was instead a beige, primer color. ultimately, we went back to the green, feeling that it was closer to the black transam my character would be emulating.


next: background designs

Friday, March 14, 2008

LOST and found

woohoo! LOST was awesome sauce last night. i won’t spoil it for anyone that isn’t caught up yet, but i was so excited that i was right about ben’s inside man on the boat. i’m almost never right about LOST-related stuff. in fact i thought the polar bear was hurley in a bear suit. and i thought the smoke monster came from sawyer’s butt. i still think, at any minute, gilligan and skipper are going to appear. i haven’t given up hope.

so how are you guys? has anyone seen any good movies? these past few weeks have been horrible movie weeks. the top 5 box office leaders were all under 40% at rottentomatoes. yikes.

i just watched the trailer for the new edward norton hulk. i’m not sure what to think yet. i think it looks well written, well shot, and well acted. but the cg.. hmm. apparently hulk is played by eddie murphy in a muscley green fatsuit. at one point i heard hulk yell ’norbit!’


Thursday, March 13, 2008


an animatic is basically storyboard that has been timed out to play sequentially. it’s a great tool to test the pacing of a scene. some animatics can be as simple as a storyboard slideshow, while others can be quite complex, with camera moves and bits of action.

we did two major versions of the animatic. the first pass was one i had done when i thought the video was going to be live-action. so it’s a bit weird, compared to what we ended up with. but the big moments are there. then ghostbot remade the entire thing themselves, in flash. this way they could use that file to work from: updated assets, moments, backgrounds, etc.

i immediately loved the animatic that ghostbot sent me. they managed to make it charming and playful, while still being very loose and rough. it was wonderful, because it was very easy for me to get a sense of what the final piece would feel like.

animatics can be a tricky thing. just like demos for songs, you have to include just enough information to convey your intent, without including too much that people might get bogged down on (“can we make it less green”, “can the explosion look like a q-tip”). i think ghostbot hit that mark perfectly.

here’s a look at the progression of the action montage section of the video (the bridge of the song).

my storyboard version:

my animatic version:

ghostbot’s animatic:

thanks for reading/watching.


next: character designs

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


we just got back from tracking drums in nashville. it was supercool! neil found an amazing drummer, jason tiemann, to lay down some serious funk grooves for two days. jason was an absolute machine! everyone involved in recording was excited about the process. jordan came up from florida to film. he had me on a separate wireless mic. i kept forgetting it was on. so while jordan was in the other room filming jason drumming, or neil playing the b3 organ, i was in the studio making obscene noises. of course. or singing really bad harmonies to the playback. hmm. jordan’s going to have a lot of fun capturing all that footage.
we finished early enough that neil had a full day to record piano and organ. it was so fun! he was coming up with all these amazing space dance parts. our engineer, craig alvin, is unbelievable. his super attuned ear, and obsessive attention to detail got incredible sound quality from the drums. he’s also fun because he has a great sense of experimentation and play. he tried all these fun echo effects for the organ parts.
oh, and i ate waaaay too many tootsie rolls. uncountable. my teeth just gave their two week notice.

[video clip?] [stills from video footage]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MLB 08 the show

woohooo! so neil just ran to the store and picked up the new MLB 08 game by sony, that 'sweep the leg' is featured in. it's the fourth song down on the list, too. which means you can see it right away when you go to jukebox mode. i'm so excited! our first song in a video game! now i'm still waiting to hear back about 'yars revenge'.
thanks so much to eddy and the guys at sony for including us in such an awesome game.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

michael video mentioned at cartoonbrew and coldhardflash

hey everyone, just a quick post to say that we were featured at cartoonbrew (a fantastic website devoted to great animation). the post is about halfway down the main page. or direct link here: direct link

thanks so much amid!


edit: i just found out, it's also featured on

Monday, March 03, 2008


before ghostbot came onboard, adam, neil, jordan and i came up with dozens of fun ‘moments’ that we wanted to see in the video. we were pretending that this would be the opening credits of an awesome cheesey cop show that never aired. we knew we wanted someone sliding across the hood of a car. we knew we wanted a big explosion. we knew we wanted crazy car jumps.

before we got together, i had the idea of making the video about me trying to be a good-samaritan vigilante-type hero. saving the world one cat-in-a-tree at a time. but i knew it had to be silly. big efforts for small outcomes. if a cat was stuck in a tree, i had to jump a car off a ramp to save it. if a lady needed help crossing the street, i would dive-roll somersault across traffic to get to her. i wanted my character to be so single-focussed on his task, that he often caused peripheral damage.

so when we all started talking, all these ideas started meshing together. a structure started to emerge. the early storyline had the explosion happening early on, with the jump off the parking garage as the final stunt. it lead into the ending of landing into the pool. so structurally, the storyline was very similar to what we ended up with. but once ghostbot came onboard, they helped to sculpt the story into something more cohesive. more connected.

some storyboard pages


next: the animatic - moving storyboad

don’t forget to check out ghosbot’s blog: